Facility-based and context-specific interventions to promote physical activity (PA) among pregnant women from economically underprivileged communities remain sparse and undocumented in South Africa. This study aimed to generate information about pregnant women’s views and experiences of PA during pregnancy, which will later be used to inform the development of a PA-based intervention targeting this group.
Qualitative methods were used and framed on the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). Five focus group discussions were conducted at a Community Health Centre in Cape Town, each comprising a stratified random sample of between 8 and 6 pregnant women living in eight low socioeconomic status communities close to the facility. The participants included primi- and multigravida black and mixed racial ancestry women at different stages of pregnancy. Data were analyzed using a Framework approach.
PA was considered important for self and the baby for most participants. However, they reported a number of barriers for translating intentions into action including the lack of supportive environment, fear of hurting oneself and the growing baby, lack of time due to work and family responsibilities, and not knowing which and how much PA is safe to do. Some of the incentives to engage in PA included establishing community-based group exercise clubs, initiating antenatal PA education and PA sessions during antenatal visits.
Based on our findings the need for an intervention to promote PA in pregnancy is evident. Such an intervention should, however, aim at addressing barriers reported in this study, particularly those related to the behavioral context.